Last week, Rhode Islanders learned of a $2.15 million increase in state childcare subsidy rates for providers. Although details of the first-ever agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which now represents the private, independent providers, have still not been released, the House Speaker’s office has provided The Current a few additional budgetary numbers.
The $2.15 million is being added to base spending of $58.9 million, or a 3.65% increase, overall, bringing the total to $61.1 million. If these provisions of the budget pass as currently written, it will represent a $7.45 million bump in spending for these payments over the current fiscal year, or a 13.90% increase.
Despite requests to multiple government agencies, the state has still not released any details of the agreement, including dues. Child Care Union Info, with which the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has worked in the past, reports a wide variety of dues from other states, although some of the contracts have been terminated. At the higher end are states in which the union’s dues are calculated as a percentage of subsidies, sometimes with a maximum.
In Michigan and Massachusetts (which is SEIU), the rate is 1.5%. In Washington (also SEIU), it’s 2%. Either rate would put the SEIU’s take in Rhode Island around $1 million, or about half of the total raise that the budget would grant. (Given Rhode Island’s small size, the union would be likely to seek dues at the higher end.)
As I stated in a release just put out by the Center, the governor and General Assembly could have increased payment rates without the involvement of a union, if needy families are having difficult finding childcare providers. As yet, there has been no claim of such difficulty. In 2013, the law was changed (in a way that is likely unconstitutional) to give independent childcare providers more leverage, and now the Speaker of the House tells Providence Journal reporter Katherine Gregg that he believes they “deserve to be paid a fair and equitable wage.”
Clearly, these providers have advocates at the State House, and those advocates could have provided the same raises at a lower cost to taxpayers by cutting out the SEIU. However, between 2004 and 2014, the SEIU gave $30,333 to Rhode Island politicians, according to the Board of Election’s campaign finance Web site. This makes the interaction win-win-win for everybody except those who have to pay the bills.
UPDATE (2:57 p.m., 6/17/15):
See here for updated numbers.